Tumor Cell Activity May Provide Clues for Treating Breast Cancer in Young Women

 Behind the Cancer Headlines®

June 6, 2007 


When women under 50 develop breast cancer, the disease tends to be more aggressive and less responsive to treatment than when it occurs in older women. Researchers at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and the Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center may have discovered a part of the reason why, and their findings may lead to targeted therapies that can help treat patients more effectively.  

The researchers discovered that the tumors found in women under the age of 45 have certain patterns of cellular activity that confer a poorer prognosis in younger women, while the same tumor cell activity in older women confers a better prognosis, demonstrating the need for age-appropriate targeted therapies, said Carey Anders, M.D., a fellow in hematology-oncology at Duke and lead investigator on the study. For this study, researchers focused on women under the age of 45 because they were seeking to gather information specific to premenopausal women. 

The researchers presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. 

“During the process by which cells change and become cancerous, we saw certain patterns in young women’s tumors that we didn’t see in the tumors found in women over the age of 45,” Anders said. “If we are able to inhibit these processes by using drugs – some of which are already available and being used to treat other cancers – we might have a better chance at treating these women more effectively and possibly even curing them.” 

Research is currently under way to determine what therapies might be effective in targeting the cellular activity in young women’s tumors, with the hope of shutting it down and halting tumor growth. 



Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, June 2, 2007, Chicago, IL

Duke University Medical Center (http://www.duke.edu)